Poo Finger, a treatise on poop and parenting

There are many things for which new parents are unprepared. In addition to major adjustments to lifestyle and challenges of caring for a new life, new parents are presented with a myriad of other surprises that, while not as significant on a grand scale, are as equally jarring to new parents. At the top of the second list, extensive experience with poop.

There is no way to escape it;  if you have a child you will become intimately associated with feces. The smell, the consistency, the texture and yes, the touch. As an involved parent you will at some point get poop on your hands. My wife and I have a name for the streak of bad luck when a wipe rips or a diaper runneth over; poo finger.

You too will experience poo finger. As if some sort of poop-induced rigor mortis, your first run in with an errant smear will cause your finger to stiffen straight out rendering your hand immobile as to not spread it around. No matter how long you scrub your hands, your first poo finger will leave you feeling like Lady Macbeth, "Out damn'd spot! out I say." You'll get over it with time, but you'll think long and hard the next time you go to pick up a sandwich without latex gloves.

Every parent will deal with diaper blow outs. If it happens while you little joy is in a car seat, it will shoot up his or her back, possibly up to their hair. (That sounded impossible before I had kids.) Kids will stink up your house at some point, but there is also positive side to so much exposure to poop. Your child's poo is a clear indicator of health or sickness and can help you identify what foods agree with them.

You will talk about poop far more than you ever imagined. (You may even end up writing about it.) You will discuss it with your partner or other parents. Poop is just part of parenting, but it's not the worst thing in the world. (Actually you get grossed out a lot less easily after having kids.) When you realize that infants usually only cry because of dirty diapers or hunger, you go out of your way to tackle the dirtiest tasks to keep them happy.  It continues with potty training and butt wiping, extending the lifespan of the poo finger, but your hand doesn't cramp up quite so bad. The realization that it hasn't killed you yet helps you continue your necessary relationship with feces and take care of your little munchkins. So get used to the idea, stock up on antibacterial soap and enjoy the crazy.

Expectant fathers, help me help you

I get tons of great comments on posts from expectant fathers. I love them because I get to learn a lot about other guys' pregnancy experiences and it's good just to hear people's opinions. Please keep them coming.

If there is something I haven't covered or you just want a sounding board to see if your experience is unique, please leave a comment on this post. I want to hear your questions, concerns or battle scars you have as an expectant father and I'll do my best to shed some light on the topic.

Continue to leave comments on other posts as well, but if you have questions or want to hear more about something specific, this is your place.

The 365 Things Project

I walked into my bedroom the other day and saw my three year old son going through a technical book I was reading. He often picks up my books, but never pays much attention, so his look of determination made me wonder what he was doing. As I got closer I realized that he was unfolding the bent corners of all of the pages I had 'dog-eared' to reference later.

He looked up sweetly and said "Dad, I fixed your book!". I couldn't help but say "thank you!".

That experience was just one of the tiny treasures of being a parent. It might not be significant in the grand scope of life, but it's just one thing I love about him.

I thought of everything else that I love about him; how every day he makes me laugh at something or expresses a new piece of his personality. I realized that years from now I may forget some of these tiny idiosyncrasies, even though they're important to how I know him and our interactions. It dawned on me that I really do find something new and amazing about him every day, so why not keep track? That's when I came up with the concept of the 365 Things Project.

The Project basically entails keeping a daily log of one trait or interaction with your child that is special or unique. It's a journal of 365 things you love about your kids. I use a spreadsheet to keep track of everything and make sure I'm up to date. I add a new line every day, usually in the form of sentence beginning with "I love that..." or "You made me laugh when..." There will be days when you're frustrated and want to kill them, but this will help you to see the positive side of things.

I strongly encourage every other parent out there to try it. At the end of 365 days you'll have a funny keep sake of all the wonderful little experiences you've had with your kids over the course of the year. I'm looking forward to reflecting on my son's hobby of flattening folded pages, his love of the color yellow and his tendency to smack the TV when 'bad' characters come on.

Kids dealing with pregnant mothers

As I approached my front door the other night I caught an earful of screams coming from the neighbor's apartment. They're a quiet and pleasant family so I indulged my nosy side for a just a moment while fumbling for my keys

"I gave up my life for all of you! I give you everything. You're all selfish..." It was the normally placid mother tearing into her usually well-behaved children. Then I remembered, she was pregnant. She was unloading on her four kids in what sounded to be a rather hormonal rant, completely out of character for her. The youngest daughter, about 2 years of age, began to bawl. I could hear the 10 year old trying to comfort her to no avail.

Making things worse, the father is not in the picture, leaving them all without the support figure they each need. A dad's role should be to help a pregnant mother through her difficult times and similarly help kids through what is a period of upheaval for them as well.

Many grown men think that dealing with pregnant women is difficult, but consider the situation from the eyes of a child. It's confusing for adults but must be of an entirely different scale for children.

By the time I found my keys I felt pretty sad for them. Until then I had never considered the pregnancy experience from a kid's viewpoint. It just wasn't my experience growing up nor my experience with our children. However it made me realize how important it is for dads to play a support role to the entire family during pregnancy.

This blog is not about demonizing pregnant women, it never has been. It's about shedding some light on the father's experience which is not always easy. What I hope it points out is that the father does play an important role in supporting everyone involved, mother, upcoming baby and the kids who are already around.

If you're an expectant dad with children, keep an eye out for how your kids are responding to the situation. Help out as much as you can, throw yourself on as many grenades as possible, just make sure they're happy. If you know a single mom without a dad in the picture, help her out as well. She'll need it more than anyone.

Save 15% on diapers with a 'subscription' from Amazon

When I sat down and calculated how much money I spend a month on diapers, I wondered if having my son poop onto a pile of $1's might be a cheaper alternative. In a previous post about the monthly expenses associated with a newborn, I estimated that disposable diapers set you back about $100 per month; approximately 390 diapers a month at $.25 a piece.

While it's something for which I budgeted, it just seems expensive to me for perfoming a basic bodily function. Kids do use fewer diapers as they get older, but guess what. Diapers get more expensive per piece as they increase in size. My son is built like a defensive tackle and, at less than 2 years old, is in size 7 Pampers Cruisers which average about $.45 a piece.

This size diaper isn't widely sold in our area so I started looking for an online source, which is when I chanced upon Amazon's fantastic offering. I looked around but couldn't find a deal that was even close.

First off, shipping is free on diapers from Amazon, which goes a long way towards not buying them in a store. If we don't have to lug around big boxes, all the better.

Second, Amazon offers a "subscription" service on certain items that will send you that product at a regular interval of your choice. The best part is, you save 15% on on those items to which you subscribe; diapers included.

Free shipping + Saving 15% = No brainer

Personally I like this concept because I don't have to worry about forgetting something at the store. I just know they're going to show up. You can cancel or change (increase or decrease) the subscription at any point, so there's very little risk.

The subscription isn't available on all diaper offerings, but as you mouse-over the various sizes and quantites, you'll see a message stating which are available for the subscription savings. The subscription option is available for Pampers Swaddlers and the larger Pampers Cruisers offering. I only wish I had found this sooner, but am glad I know about this in time for baby #2.

Maggie Maternity, a savior for maternity wear buyers

I've written previously about how difficult it is to buy maternity clothes for a pregnant woman, stating the dangers inherent to the giver of such a gift. One rogue decision on sizing and she could either explode at you (too big: "How big do you think I am?") or implode in tears (too small: "I'm getting huge!"). It is a challenge for men to buy clothing for women when their bodies are not undergoing a myriad of changes, but throw in altered physical appearance and a limited selection of styles and you're setting yourself up for gift giving failure.

As difficult as it is to find something fashionable in the realm of maternity clothing, it's equally difficult to find something that is well made and fits well. A standard, ill-fitting maternity smock won't cut it for women in professional environments, nor will it make the expectant mother feel good about herself either. (If you pick nothing else up from this blog, note this: it is paramount that you make expectant mothers feel good about themselves.)

This puts expectant fathers at a distinct disadvantage; buy nothing and you look like you don't care, buy the wrong thing and you may fall flat on your face.

Finally, there is a solution in the form of Maggie Maternity clothing. Not only does it make it easy for a guy to buy clothing for an expectant woman, it's something she actually wants! For the first time in either of my wife's two pregnancies, she has clothing that makes her feel good about herself and that she didn't have to describe using the adjectives "tent", "scratchy" or "cheap". My wife called me at work when it arrived in the mail and exclaimed "It's fantastic!"

When I got home I realized why she was so excited, she looked absolutely beautiful in her new clothes. They're simple, classic and elegant and make her look more like she's going into a restaurant than into labor. I asked my wife what she liked about the pieces and she began to ramble off quite a few. I only typed fast enough to catch some sentence fragments, but they paint a clear picture:

  • ... comfortable, easy to wear, versatile....
  • ... mix and match, easy to incorporate with other styles and pieces...
  • ... something, something, easy care, something, something, lay flat to dry...
  • ... a nice change style wise because everything else is empire waisted and it's nice to have one nice fluid silhouette from top to bottom, not just a uni-boob or boob shelf and a belly.
  • ... there is an elastic quality to it that stretches to fit a body but isn't clingy at all. It's great because the combination of the material and the side ruching grows with you. It doesn't make you look too large early on and is flattering throughout the entire pregnancy.

  • While the clothes themselves solve the issue of what an expectant mother would want, the website itself does a great job of helping you select appropriate sizing, providing style tips and suggesting predefined clothing combos. I got the four piece Classic Maggie Box for my wife which includes two tops, a skirt and pants, all of which she loves. My wife is about 6 feet tall and they even have long sizes to accommodate.

    For those of you looking to buy maternity wear, expecting father or mother, I'd highly recommend Maggie Maternity.

    The good folks at Maggie Maternity were kind enough to extend a discount coupon good for 20% off of any full-price merchandise through the end of August, 2009. (Excludes sale items and boxes).

    Enter the code Aug20 on the shopping cart page to redeem the discount. (It's never to early to think about the holidays!)

    Fetuses may have memories, make them good ones

    I've always advocated that fathers should talk to their partner's pregnant belly. I practiced this extensively with our first child, carrying on daily monologues next to my wife's baby bump. Moments after my son was born I spoke to him and he instantly quieted and looked up at me. The reaction was significant enough that the nurses and doctor commented on it and asked if I had been talking to him all along. That brief moment made the months of mindless belly banter worthwhile.

    Aside from my experience, there is new evidence that 30-week-old fetuses are able to "store information and retrieve it four weeks later." The study tested fetal reaction to acoustic stimulation and noted differences between groups which had and had not previously experienced the stimulation, signifying their memory of the stimulus.

    In my non-scientific summation and application of this information, a fetus can learn the sound of its father's voice. It's a great way for both the father and the fetus to bond and, by experience, has a calming effect on a new born baby. Studies have shown that reactive listening can occur as early as 16 weeks gestational age, so talk soon and talk often.